In last month’s PM Network magazine was a study that said 77% of CEOs have or plan to adopt a strategy to attract diverse talent*. It’s common knowledge that a diverse team provides benefits in terms of creativity and better results, and it’s something that project managers should strive for on project teams. So how do you create a diverse project team? Here are some tips.
1. Mix the demographics
Try to get a good mix of diverse backgrounds in your project team. Everyone brings something different to the project, so the wider the experiences, the wider their pool of information to draw on to solve problems, overcome project issues and develop innovative solutions. Think about:
· Age: Try to get a balance of age groups represented in the team. This will help your project benefit from different ways of working and looking at solutions.
· Nationality: On many project teams today a diverse blend of nationalities happens by default. With many teams involving international or off-shore partners you should find it relatively easy to build a multi-national team.
· Ethnicity: Draw on the widest possible pool of project team resources and be inclusive. A multi-cultural team will broaden the overall experience and knowledge of the team.
And any other demographic features that help build a broad knowledge base and background for your project team. With 25% of CEOs reporting in the study that they are pursuing this diversity agenda from a demographic perspective, you know it is something that senior management is likely to support.
2. Create gender balance
A good mix of men and women on a team has been shown at senior levels in organisation to generate improved business results. There’s no reason to suggest that it would be different on a project team operating within the business, so think about how you can get both men and women involved in your project.
3. Involve different specialists
Ask people from different departments and with different business specialisms to join the team. For example, as your business or user representative to join the project team permanently. They will bring a completely different viewpoint to project planning and will also have a take on how to manage project issues so that you get the best result for the users.
Making the effort to fully involve managers and users from other departments will let you tap into their knowledge base and can open up new channels of communication. If you have a PMO, you can also ask them to identify suitable resources, knowing what kind of specialist you want on the project.
4. Capitalise on different interests
This is more of a personal side to diversity, and in a business environment you wouldn’t always know what interests your project team members have. Smaller, lean start up style companies may have team members who are prepared to be more open about their interests outside of work than those in a traditional, hierarchical company where sharing that kind of personal touch isn’t valued.
Talking about the interests of the team members, where you can, helps identify similarities and differences in a way that can bring the team together.
Virtual teams tend to lend themselves to diversity because they are made up of people in different locations, who by nature of their geography have a different take on the project. The virtual team environment, and using online project management tools, also lends itself well to building diversity and open discussion, because the ways of working support creative thinking and collaboration.
Strategies for the non-diverse team
Sometimes it isn’t possible to create a team with a great gender balance, experts from different demographic and specialist backgrounds who reflect the broad customer base you are trying to serve. When you don’t have a diverse project team you can still get some of the benefits by using strategies to boost your creative thinking.
Tools like de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats will help you prompt your project team to take a stance outside their normal opinions by providing a way of channelling thinking towards different viewpoints. By structuring any facilitated meeting or project discussion around creating a better customer experience you’ll come up with ideas that more accurately reflect your user population.
In short, try to source members of your project team from different places. Don’t rely on the usual subjects to make up your project team. Talk to line managers and department heads to find new individuals who could work on your projects, and bring fresh new ideas. Diversity is there, if you look for it.
* The PwC Annual Global CEO Survey 18th Edition (2015) can be found here.